Category Archives: Necessary Reading

Shameless Plug #5

In my latest column for Zester Daily, I attended the second annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off in Los Angeles and interviewed contestants and judges on Korean food’s sudden rise in popularity. Chef Ludo Lefebvre (of LudoBites fame), Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, and award-winning actress Sandra Oh were on hand to offer their thoughts on the trend and answer this burning question: Is kimchi the new sushi?

Here’s an excerpt:

Diners aren’t the only ones embracing Korean cuisine. Chefs are also hopping on the bandwagon, with Korean ingredients and flavors showing up more and more at high-profile restaurants around L.A., including LudoBites, where Lefebvre frequently uses kimchi in his dishes. “Korean food is a big influence in America,” Lefebvre said. “I am French, and I cook a lot with kimchi at my restaurant. I’ve made kimchi foie gras, kimchi with cheese, and now I’m working on a kimchi dessert.”

Korean chefs are incorporating American influences into their native cuisine as well, perhaps playing off the success of Roy Choi’s Kogi tacos. At the Korean BBQ Cook-Off, visitors waited in line for half an hour to try Kalbi Burger and Seoul Sausage Company, which sold Korean-inspired burgers and hot dogs. But it was Choonchun Dakgalbi’s signature dish of chicken, rice cakes, yams and cheese in a spicy red sauce that won the attention of the judges. Cook-off judge Oh presented the restaurant with the award for best fusion dish. “I love the fact that Korean food, especially in LA, is moving forward,” she said. “I’m totally there with you guys to expand Korean flavors.”

Read the full article at Zester Daily. And please Tweet, Like, and forward to your friends!


Shameless Plug #4

While some are wondering whether “Top Chef” is losing its edge, there is no doubt that some truly talented and motivated chefs have graced the show’s kitchens. Two of them–D.C. locals Carla Hall and Spike Mendelsohn–are putting their talent and cache toward a worthy cause: the battle against childhood obesity. Hall and Mendelsohn, along with 990 other chefs across the country, are joining First Lady Michelle Obama in her efforts to bring healthy food to the nation’s schools through her newest initiative, Chefs Move to Schools. Here’s an excerpt:

Life after “Top Chef” doesn’t always lead to fame or fortune (whatever happened to past winners Hung Huynh and Hosea Rosenberg?), but two former contestants are making a name for themselves on the school lunch front. Chefs Spike Mendelsohn and Carla Hall, finalists on “Top Chef” seasons four and five, are participating in Michelle Obama’s latest initiative to combat childhood obesity, Chefs Move to Schools.

The program pairs chefs with public schools across the nation in an effort to educate and excite students about food and nutrition. Chefs will work together with teachers, administrators and cafeteria workers to promote healthy eating through performing cooking demos, planting school gardens, and eventually revamping school cafeteria menus to include nutritionally balanced, cost-effective dishes. So far, 990 chefs and 448 schools across the country have signed on to participate.

Hundreds of chefs, including Hall, attended June’s inaugural Chefs Move to Schools event at the White House. “The event was nothing short of moving,” she said. “To see that many chef coats and toques in one place was quite special.” Michelle Obama told chefs they are in a unique position to change kids’ eating habits: “You’ll be elevating the role of food in our schools … You know more about food than almost anyone — other than the grandmas — and you’ve got the visibility and the enthusiasm to match that knowledge. That’s really what’s key.”

Read my full article over at Zester Daily. And many thanks to Carla and Spike for the interviews; it was a pleasure to meet you both!

Photo credit: Matthew Lyons/Micheline Mendelsohn

**In other news, tomorrow is The Unpaid Gourmet’s birthday! 🙂 I’ll be celebrating by, of course, eating. Reviews of the meals will follow next week!

**And for those of you looking for a way to beat the heat this weekend, head over to Pizzeria Paradiso for their IPA Festival! Click here for more details.


Shameless Plug #3

My article, “School Food Reform, One No-Bake Tart at a Time,” marks my long-awaited (6 months–to be exact!) debut on The Atlantic Food channel. All of the time spent was worth it. The article discusses Dr. Antonia Demas’ Food Is Elementary program (which I also wrote about here) and its innovative integration of healthy USDA commodity foods. Here’s a snippet:

Using these healthy commodity foods, most of which would be prohibitively expensive if bought on the open market, is one factor that makes Food Is Elementary a cost-effective program. As Antonia Demas noted, “I think the commodity program, if used correctly and in conjunction with classroom-based education, could really be a way to solve health problems in this country.” Her integration of healthy commodity foods won Food Is Elementary a national award for creativity in implementing USDA guidelines.

I also visited a successful Food Is Elementary program, run by Catherine Dixon, at the Stadium School in Baltimore. Her students’ reactions to the class were pretty inspiring:

Perhaps the strongest insurance Food Is Elementary can have is enthusiasm from students—something Catherine Dixon’s program in Baltimore has managed to inspire. Her students unanimously told me her class was their favorite part of the day. “I like that it’s more cooking than working,” one student joked. Another explained, “I like that we get to chop things, and learn about the food and where it comes from—it’s like going to another culture.” And surprisingly, when asked what their favorite dishes that they made in class were, students tended to name the more exotic-sounding, gourmet fare: veggie burgers, sushi, and of course, that delectable raw fruit tart.

Read the full article–which includes a recipe for Antonia Demas’ raw fruit tart–here.


Shameless Plug #2

The second installment in this glorious series is an article I wrote for Zester Daily, a recently launched food news site that provides fresh and lively stories from around the globe. I signed on to be a regular contributor and published my first story, “Changing Baltimore’s Diet,” on veteran food educator Dr. Antonia Demas and her battle to reform students’ eating habits in Baltimore public schools. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Nearly 40 years ago, before “organic” and “farm-to-table” became buzzwords in the food community, Antonia Demas realized the importance of promoting nutritional education in schools. Her philosophy was simple: If students are taught about healthy food in a positive and engaging way, they will be more willing to eat those healthy foods, both in the classroom and at home.

That philosophy eventually developed into a comprehensive curriculum called “Food Is Elementary” — widely regarded by nutrition educators as one of the most effective approaches to encouraging students to eat healthier. T. Colin Campbell, a professor of nutrition and biochemistry at Cornell University, endorsed the program, saying Demas’ “curriculum ought to be in every school in the country.” To date, “Food Is Elementary” has been taught in more than 2,000 schools across the country.

Click here to read the full article. And please Tweet, Digg, Facebook “Like” or link! Thanks, readers!

Photo: Catherine Dixon, a food educator at the Stadium School in Baltimore, teaches Antonia Demas’ program “Food Is Elementary”


Shameless Plug #1

Here’s the first in what (at least, for me) will hopefully be a regular series. Unpaid Gourmet readers, I would be so grateful if you read, Tweet, Digg, or “Like” my latest article on Salon’s Food page, “Are bustaurants the new food truck?.” The story describes the rise of the latest street food trend, the bustaurant, and muses whether these behemoth vehicles are just the latest fad or the future of restaurants. Here’s an excerpt to give you a taste:

Ever since Kogi started dishing out kimchi quesadillas and hipster attitude on the streets of Los Angeles, the Twittering food truck trend has only gotten hotter. Critics proclaimed 2009 the year of the gourmet food truck, as trucks serving everything from designer cupcakes to Belgian waffles to Vietnamese banh mi spread across the country. But now, a new breed of restaurants is emerging and taking mobile dining to a whole other level — literally.

World Fare, America’s first official bustaurant, opened its doors in Los Angeles this past March. Like Kogi, World Fare uses Twitter to alert customers to its whereabouts. Diners order their food from the bus’s street-level window, where they can peer into the full kitchen and watch chef Andi Van Willigan prepare their dishes. But while food trucks leave customers to fend for themselves once they have their plate in hand, World Fare’s guests head upstairs and dine on the bus’s  deck, where marble countertops, white umbrellas and views of the streets await. And for those who might be nervous about losing their lunch, don’t worry — the bustaurant does not move while customers are eating.

Click here to read the full article. Thanks for your support!

Photo courtesy of WorldFare/flickr

UPDATE: As of 11:15 a.m. today (6/9/10), the story is the most read on Salon’s Food page!